by Rebecka Colldunberg

The ‘tuckshop’—it is an Australian institution. Sweaty children packed shoulder to shoulder, jostling and wriggling, peering desperately over the top of each other in the swarming, heaving lines, in order to catch a glimpse of what’s on offer. Is it burgers today? Sausage rolls? Chips? Apple muffins? Banana muffins? Hot dogs? Or, my personal favourite, the classic meat pie, which may or may not contain remnants of something that was once a cow. If the students are lucky, sauce is free.

Yes, the tuckshop. It is transcendental. It transcends gender, it transcends age and, at St Peters Lutheran College (SPLC) Springfield, Queensland, it transcends religion.

‘There was a time not too long ago when Lutheran schools were attended predominantly by Lutheran students’, SPLC chaplain Pastor Matt Wilksch explains. ‘But this is not the case in 2015. At St Peters Springfield, which was established in 2008, the proportion of students who identify as Lutheran has always been relatively small, while the number of students following other religions or having no religious affiliation is growing. So how do we conduct ministry to a culturally and spiritually diverse community?’

One way, arguably the most important way, is through hospitality. Anyone who has ever been on a diet; anyone who is vegetarian or gluten-intolerant; anyone with an allergy—in short, almost everyone—knows that to be excluded from a meal, albeit unintentionally and without malice, is one of the loneliest experiences a person can have.

With several Muslim children attending SPLC, the school has taken the step to provide a tuckshop menu which includes halal options.

Pastor Wilksch explains that it is through small gestures such as these that ‘students feel included, parents feel supported, trust between families and the school is fostered and Christ, who welcomes us, is honoured’.

The initiative is the brainchild of SPLC tuckshop convenor Shirley Thompson. ‘I had several parents approach me asking what sort of meat we were using in our menu’, explains the passionate British chef with more than 25 years of experience. ‘So I started making some inquiries into halal meat options.’

What Shirley found was a vast selection to choose from. Her next step was to speak with Pastor Matt and school principal Jill Lange-Mohr. ‘It did involve some soul-searching’, Shirley continued. ‘I wasn’t sure how the initiative would be accepted in a Christian school.’

As it turned out, Shirley found she had nothing to worry about—quite conversely, Jill was excited by the initiative. ‘Within the SPLC community it is important for us to be respectful and inclusive’, Jill said proudly.

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